Fine-Tune Your Diet–The Six Tastes

With the winter holidays, we come home to tastes that conjure tradition, bring us pleasure and remind of us of past good times.  The six tastes enumerated by Ayurveda—sweet, sour, salty, bitter, pungent and astringent—are featured in many holiday feasts. In the United States, typical holiday meals contain all six tastes:  turkey is sweet and astringent, sage is predominantly astringent with a little bitter and pungent, squash and sweet potatoes are predominantly sweet, green beans are astringent, bitter and sweet, cranberries are sour and astringent, pumpkin pie spices are pungent and sweet. The salt we add to the meal enhances the flavor of our feast-foods and helps to boost our digestive fire so that we can digest the food.

This fundamental recommendation—that all six tastes be consumed, in appropriate amount, with sweet taste being predominant for health—can extend to our daily meal pattern, all year.  It is in knowing what is appropriate, where we can really foster our health and nurture our digestive fire.  Traditionally, Ayurveda characterizes tastes and the foods that carry them as hita: beneficial, or ahita: unbeneficial.

Taste or rasa also signals the elements that are predominant in the food and the effect it will have on our bodies. The Ayurvedic medical texts enumerate the many qualities and actions of tastes.  For this article, I have referred to the Astanga Samgraha, a compendium of the knowledge held in prior texts. In general, Sweet, Sour and Salty help to balance Vata; and Sweet, Bitter and Astringent help to balance Pitta; and Bitter, Pungent and Astringent help to balance Kapha; but, knowing the individual qualities and actions that each taste carries and does in the body help us fine-tune what we eat to support us in the moment and for the long term. 

Following are some of the qualities and actions described in the Asthanga Samgraha.

  • Sweet taste
    • Predominant in Earth and Water elements
    • Coats the mouth, brings pleasure to the senses and happiness to the body
    • Nourishes all of the tissues of the body and prolongs the life-span
    • Improves bodily strength and complexion
    • Fosters healthy skin and hair.
    • Balances Vata and Pitta
    • Heavy to digest, unctuous, cool, soft
  • Sour taste
    • Predominant in Earth and Fire elements
    • Stimulates the tongue
    • Causes watering of the mouth
    • Produces a burning sensation in the throat, chest and abdomen
    • Hastens the movement of feces and gas through the digestive tract
    • Improves the taste of food
    • Kindles the digestive fire
    • Produces stoutness, nourishes and moistens the body
    • Balances Vata
    • Although cold to the touch, is hot, unctuous, light to digest and spreading
  • Salty taste
    • Predominant in Water and Fire elements
    • Increases salivation
    • Creates a burning sensation in the throat and cheeks
    • Enhances taste of foods
    • Removes stiffness and obstruction
    • Spurs appetite
    • Improves digestion
    • Moistens at first—but in excess it dries
    • Balances Vata and liquifies Kapha
    • Spurs movement and spreading
    • Can cause destruction of vitality and create laxity in the bodily tissues and joints
    • Hot, sharp and penetrating; neither too heavy nor too unctuous
  • Bitter taste
    • Predominant in Air and Space elements
    • Cleanses the mouth and clears the throat but hinders the perception of other tastes
    • Dries excess moisture, fat tissues, feces and urine as well as the liquid part of Pitta and Kapha
    • Kindles digestive fire and aides in digestion
    • Relieves burning sensation
    • Cold and scraping
  • Pungent taste
    • Predominant in Air and Fire elements
    • Stimulating to the digestive fire but irritating to the tip of the tongue, throat and cheeks
    • Causes watery discharge from the mouth, eyes and nose
    • Improves taste perception
    • Addresses digestive issues characterized by heaviness and sluggishness
    • Dries both watery and oily moisture
    • Scrapes out accumulations
    • Cleansing, but causes burning sensation and impedes the healing of wounds.
  • Astringent taste
    • Predominant in Air and Earth elements
    • Inactivates the tongue and obstructs the throat through drying and binding action
    • Balances Kapha, Pitta and increased Rakta dhatu (red blood)
    • Impedes elimination of feces
    • Heavy to digest, drying and cold
    • Binding/mending to tissues

Divine Nourishment

Namaste!  Most commonly heard in yoga class here in the US, Namaste, Namaskar or Vanakkam are common greetings in India, like good morning or good evening.  These words add an extra dimension, though, because they mean, “I bow to you” or “Salutations to you.“  They acknowledge the divine essence in us all—a way of saying, good day, fellow divine being!

I just spent 2 months in India for study and fun and was fortunate to be able to listen to many learned teachers of everything from Ayurveda to Yoga Philosophy.  During my trip, I started to think about how we might acknowledge the divine in our food as well as in ourselves—how we might greet the food in our meals with a heartfelt, “Namaste!”. 

This reflection started in a yoga philosophy class, where the teacher was talking about Brahma (God) and that everything is Brahma (the divine).  The subject of wasting food was raised—a topic in which my Ayurvedic mentor and beloved teacher, Vaidya Yashashree Mannur is very passionate about.  Until then, I had assumed that her passion for this had the same roots as my mother’s—my mom grew up during the depression and came out of that experience with the conviction that nothing should be wasted.  Her desire to not waste food, or anything else, came from a sense of scarcity.  And, indeed, I still think that there is some of that in Vaidya Yash’s desire to not waste food. 

But the yoga philosophy teacher made the point that if everything is God, then food is God too and shouldn’t be disrespected or wasted—and then, I understood the main reason my teacher didn’t want to waste food.

I started thinking about how this was manifesting during my time in India—where instead of throwing left-overs away or letting them sit in the refrigerator to get stale, my Indian roommates would take whatever food was left over from our meals across the street to a group of laborers who always seemed glad to get it.  In this way, we respected the food and its power to nourish by making sure to not throw it away and to share what we had in excess with people who didn’t have much at all. 

In another variation on this theme, an older gentleman told me that it is best to give the first chappati off the grill, which is always a little imperfect, to one of the many dogs that live in the streets of India, instead of just tossing it into the garbage so that the food is not wasted or disrespected.

In Ayurveda, this recognition of the divine in food is implicit in the recommendations given for consuming a meal:

  • We are encouraged to sit quietly for a few moments and say a blessing for ourselves and the food before eating
  • We are encouraged to concentrate on eating and really be present with our food:  mindfully tasting and enjoying it
  • We are encouraged to take food that is Satmya (soul food); food that is pleasing to our souls
  • We are encouraged to take just the right amount of food, not too little or too much—just so that we are nourished and satisfied but not overly full or still hungry so that our agni (digestive fire) is able to function in proper order
  • We are encouraged to consume food in season and as freshly prepared as possible so that it is alive with prana and brings the qualities that are the result of natural ebb and flow of seasonal character

In Ayurveda, as well as much of Vedic thought, everything in the universe is also a part of us.  So, when we eat, all those qualities of the universe are brought into our bodies and exert effects—such as nourishing or lightening, heating or cooling, moistening or drying.  When we pay sensitive attention to what is happening—in our bodies and the world around us— we can best choose foods that enhance our body’s harmony.

In the spirit of treating our meals with respect and love, here is an idea for some thoughts we might direct at our food before we start to enjoy it:

Namaste (I bow to…) the nourishment you bring to me and am so grateful for it

Namaste to the pleasure of the taste of you and so grateful I can experience it.

Namaste to the traditions and wisdom you represent and am so grateful they have been passed down to me.

Namaste to the healing that you bring and open myself to receive it.

The Colonization of Inner Space

Inner Space…what does that conjure up in your mind?  When you close your eyes do you connect with a centered, calm part of yourself?  Or do you close your eyes and get bombarded with to do lists, worry or dissatisfaction?

Lately, I’ve become fascinated by how much of our inner space—our innate sense of who we are, what is important to us and how we are experiencing our lives—is shaped by advertising, electronic entertainment and media.  It can be sobering to sit with yourself and see how much of what occupies your mind is influenced by things which are in turn controlled by huge financial interests who may not have your best interest in mind.

Even things we use to stay in touch like Facebook and other social media sites are designed to keep us tuned into them so that they can make money.  Check out this fascinating podcast from Sam Harris speaking with Tristan Harris about the technology of persuasion:

Meanwhile, what does it mean, anyway, the colonization of inner space?  What I mean is that before movies, radio, television, and social media, people’s inner lives—their beliefs, their imagination, their fundamental world view—were shaped by their families, their religious upbringing, storytelling and their observation of real people going through their daily lives.  They did not see up to 10,000 ads per day.  They could not easily connect to entertainment to occupy their time, and while they may have been bored silly sometimes, they had some connection to their innate sense of self and what they really believed and found dear, and they spent a lot of time in contact with other human beings.

How many of us have formed our ideas about what romantic relationships or our sexuality or our social circle should be like from movies and television?  How many of us dress or eat in a way that personally appeals to us, uninfluenced by what is currently “in” or “correct” as decided by some media source?  And how much of this contributes to some sense of incompleteness, inadequacy and dissatisfaction?

In Ayurveda, the word used for health is svastha.  Its literal meaning is “centered or seated in the self”.  It implies a level of connection and wellbeing that is available when one is truly centered in oneself and not scattered and driven by forces outside of one’s own true nature.  Another fundamental Ayurvedic concept is that of pragya aparadha, meaning mistakes of the intellect.  In Ayurveda, the causes of disease or imbalance stem from these mistakes.  In other words, we do not initially connect with what is appropriate to us and then because we do not, we do not act in a way that promotes our health—we make mistakes of the intellect.  We over- or under-do, and create the grounds for confusion in our mind-body-spirit which creates a fertile ground for imbalance.

Consider reclaiming some of your inner space.  It can be hard to uncover under the barrage of outside information we are exposed to.  But, that calm space you might have connected to in yoga class, during meditation, on a hike or in talking face-to-face with a loved one—that is the key to your own health and wellness.  It is the place that will guide you toward your own svastha—wellness centered in your self.

Ayurvedic Spiced Milk

Raw cow or goat milk is high prized in Ayurvedic nutrition as it nourishes all the bodily tissues, builds vitality and the intellect.  It should never be taken cold, out of the refrigerator, but instead cooked with yummy spices to enhance it’s digestibility.


Easy Oven-Baked Kitcharee

Sometimes, we just don’t have time to do much cooking.  Sometimes we don’t have the inclination.  But, Ayurveda recommends freshly cooked foods as often as possible.  So, here is an easy way to make kitcharee for yourself without a lot of fuss.


Turmoil and uncertainty fill the air these days.  Seemingly irreparable divides fracture our politics.  Folks on both sides of the aisle experience aversion to those they disagree with.  Many of us are experiencing increased anxiety, insomnia and, often times, a boiling anger.  Others are plagued with dread.  Healthy habits for body and mind are disturbed.  What refuge can Ayurveda offer you in times like these?

Good health in mind, body and spirit are functions of maintaining good habits and good conduct—towards oneself and others.  This is because how we behave affects the health of our society which in turn affects us.

Maintaining good habits can be difficult when times are challenging.  But, they are essential to our well-being,  so that we can interact with current events in ways that support our communities and ourselves.  Controlling our mind is an essential part maintaining our health and refraining from harmful behaviors.

The Ayurvedic texts recognize the practice of Yoga as a superb way to manage the mind.  So, I asked four of my favorite teachers, from a variety of traditions—both yogic and Buddhist, to give guidance about how to manage ourselves in these turbulent times—and they generously responded with a wide variety of suggestions and perspectives.

I spoke with

What are your favorite yoga or meditation practices to work with a fearful mind?


Yoga:   Yoga practices that focus on being Earthy would be my recommendation – These would be postures that focus on the hips and legs –  One of the most essential components is to  establish a  connection with the breath and having the breath initiate the movement.  Do no harm.

Meditation:   I would recommend shamatha ( calm or peaceful abiding ) meditation.  This is best understood by receiving instruction from a meditation instructor. In addition , if you feel very fearful taking a walk with the attention on your feet can be helpful.


When fear arises it is helpful for me to connect to nature.  My own nature through calm breathing and the natural world that is available outside.   Getting my feet moving on the earth is a practical way to connect and feel the rhythm of life.   I enjoy meditating with a tree, a flower, a bird, or even a blade of grass.  The opposite of fear is love.  Not a romantic love, but the kind of love that recognizes the truth in all that is born, breathes and dies.


Constant fear makes you powerless. A positive thinking technique that works well—but is not so easy—is cultivating the opposite quality of your negative thought. In this case, you would assert that you are courageous. Trust that what is happening is happening for a reason or it wouldn’t have happened. Projecting into the future has us fearing in advance. Remain calm and muster the strength to face what needs to be faced, calmly and fearlessly. Slow, deep breathing goes a long way in this regard. Meditate on your oneness with your highest ideal of Truth. Managing your reactions in no way means being passive; stick to your principles and convictions and grow stronger. Swami Sivananda says, “Adversity is a blessing in disguise” and even calls it a “virtue” which “strengthens your nerves and sharpens your skill.”


In the first chapter of Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra, he has a section (sutras 1:23 and 1:32 through 1:39) where he gives nine solutions for bringing ourselves back to balance and, of these nine, two are mandatory—found in sutras  1:32 and 1:33.  In Sutra 1:33, he has a concept that many Buddhists are familiar with–it’s called the Brahma Vihāras (sublime attitudes, the “abodes of brahma”).  There Patanjali says that when you are interacting with events in the world, there are four ways in which you should try to interact.

The first is that is when we see somebody who is happy then we should try to be friendly to them.  We shouldn’t be jealous or try to get in on their good thing or try to knock them down a peg or two, because if we do those things it will just increase our own agitation.  Be friendly because this will reduce agitation—it will bring us back to balance.

The second is when we see somebody who is suffering, we should have compassion.    We shouldn’t  think, “Oh, it’s about time—they deserved it, or “Haha, what did you think was going to happen,” or “Well thank God that’s not me!”  We should have compassion because any other result is going to add to our own agitation and bring us out of balance.

The third one is when we see people who are doing positive things, we should support them.  We shouldn’t  think, “Well, why didn’t I think of that?”  We shouldn’t  try to cut them off and or put them down, or put up obstacles.  When we see somebody doing good work,  we should support them.

Patanjali says the fourth one is upeksha which means equanimity.  When we see somebody who is doing bad things, adharmic things (called apunya—not appropriate, not righteous, not correct things) then we have to maintain equanimity.  Now maintaining equanimity might mean disconnecting for some period of time.  So, what Patanjali is saying, is that when we are dealing with a situation in which we’re not able to be friendly, compassionate or supportive, we have to disconnect until we can be.  Get away from it a little bit.  Re-engage only if we’re able to maintain equanimity.

How about anxiety, especially if it manifests as behaviors like obsessive interaction with media or over/undereating? 


To lessen the risk of anxiety I suggest the practice of creating healthy balance in relationships and choices.  There are many aspects of life that we do have control over such as the foods we choose, the people we choose to spend time with and where we put our energy. Creating safe, happy and creative experiences wherever we are able.

Overeating is a habit that I have personally experienced to some degree throughout my life.  It arises when I am exhausted and feel the need to ‘ground’ and rest deeply.  I find it is healthful to watch media that is not violent or disturbing in nature but is instead uplifting to the heart and mind.  While watching an interesting show it feels great to stretch out and practice long held asanas.


Taking regular breaks and remembering that part of how we lose our vital energy is by overly extending our will power.  It is essential to take time away to replenish yourself so that you are able to engage in a creative, inspired way.

Become familiar with recognizing when you have overextended.- Are you more irritable ? Do you find yourself arguing with people more – even if it’s not pressing issues. Do you notice that you trivialize the connections you have with people because it just doesn’t feel important enough?! Do you obsess over keeping up with things to the degree that you aren’t able to be present?

Pay attention to when you are overdone and when you recognize that you are, have a list of things that you know nourish you – taking a walk, watching some comedy, spending time with friends , gardening , etc.


So, yoga, like Ayurveda, is a game of conscious linking.  What you connect to has an impact on the way that your system functions.  When you observe, “I’m feeling anxious, etc.,” it’s important to have some reflection about what is making me anxious?  What am I connecting to that might be having some impact on me.  For many people, their past time is Facebook so they can see pictures of their friend’s kids; however, if you’re going to Facebook and all you’re seeing is protest this and oh my god we got screwed that, etc. etc.–we might want to disconnect from Facebook.

Disconnecting is not easy in a vacuum.  What yoga says about letting go is called vairagyam (Yoga Sutra 1:12).  Vairagyam means relinquishing.  Relinquishing happens as a result of efforts in a different direction.  So what’s really important is that it’s not enough to simply relinquish.  You have to do something else instead.  So when you feel like going on Facebook, go for a walk.  Do some pranayama.  Do a couple of asanas.  Call a friend.  Don’t talk politics.  It is not enough to say, I’m not going to.  No, its much better to say, instead of doing this, I’m going to do that.  Instead of reading the New York Times in the morning, I’m going to go for a walk.  I’ll be connected to nature, I’ll probably see some dogs!  I’ll be happy.  If you don’t give yourself a concrete alternative action that you’re going to take, you’ll very likely be stuck in the old habits.


We say we want peace, but peace is boring. We secretly eat up the drama and remain restless and alone. Connection is key–with like-minded, hopeful, positive forces around us. We’re looking for love and acknowledgment and we reach for something that can never satisfy us. Reach out to community. Attend a group meditation or kirtan session. Seek out a yoga class where the vibe is calm and nurturing. Balance your energy in constructive ways. Take time to see beyond the habits of your mind. This could be a commitment to yourself for a daily sitting in silent meditation, detaching from whatever comes up. Even 10 minutes will make a difference. Or take time to journal or keep a gratitude list daily.

And what about anxiety that manifests as insomnia or difficulty sleeping?


There are some different things here.  One is that where you put your attention matters.  So if you’re thinking of all kind of problems and how this bad thing is going to happen and that how that outcome is incredibly awful, this will make sleeping worse.  So whatever you can do to put your attention in a positive frame before bed is so important.  Read a book that’s enjoyable and calming and spend some time looking at photo albums of friends that you love and have no issues with.  The point is to put your attention somewhere where you are not continually reconnecting to the things that are aggravating you.  That’s one aspect.

The second aspect is there are some really simple breathing techniques.  Probably the easiest breathing technique for non-practitioners, is that you breathe in through your mouth and then close one nostril and you breathe out the other nostril.  You breathe out all the way so there’s that contraction of the lower abdomen and try to pause for a moment or two after you’ve finished exhaling.  If you’re really having difficulty sleeping because of anxiety, the long exhale and the pause after that exhale, might be a little panicky.  That’s ok.  Stay with it.  So, inhale through the mouth, exhale through one nostril.  It’s best to alternate the nostrils.  Pause after the exhale, just a moment or two, and as you go, over say 3 to 4 minutes, pause maybe a little longer, pause 2, maybe 3 counts afterwards.  This is a very simple breathing technique but it’s very effective for changing the state.

From a yoga perspective, the behavior of the mind and the emotions is symptomatic of the state we’re in.  Same thing for Ayurveda.  So if you want your body or your mind to behave in a different way, ie fall asleep, then you have to give it a different kind of functioning.  Extending your exhale is very effective at changing the functioning of the system.


Swami Sivananda says, ”Give up the worrying habit. He who worries cannot sleep. Be regular in your prayer and meditation. The worrying habit will vanish.” Surrender. We are not in charge. Keep the mind in the present and be happy. A nighttime routine can help, conscious wind-down time. Here are some practical tips: practice cheerfulness; don’t use too many blankets; don’t take sleeping pills; let your last meal be light and not late.


A yoga practice before bed time that works wonders to relax the mind is to gaze with a relaxed focus into a candle for several minutes before bed.  Other ‘end of the day’ rituals that prepare for sleep are baths, restorative poses and reading.


This is a big question ……….I find that working with this can entail a process that can involve diet, inner reflection, possible medical attention.

In the immediate – working with the breath can help .  Focusing on the breath – not trying to push away what’s bothering you but touching in with the breath and feeling into your body.

A lot of people are experiencing anger, outrage and loathing?  What practices have you found work the best when working with these kind of mind states?


We are all a small part of a larger story.  Each of us in our own way have a role to play.  I am not sure what that larger story is about or how each of us fit into it exactly.  I have no idea how it started, when it began, or how it will end.  Perhaps we have made some other contracts before this life and time that we are now unaware of.  Neutrality comes for this knowledge that we simply do not know.  We have no idea what another human being has been through.  We have to continue to live out the dharma that we are aware of.  Dharma is the ‘truth’ that guides us. It is living a life that is true to our gifts.  If you are a writer- write.  If you are singer- sing.  If you are a leader- lead.  Every practice- no matter how small- moves us all forward. The foundation of all yoga practices are non-harm, truth, non stealing, non greed, preserving vital energy, practicing contentment, purity, strong work, self study, and surrender.


You know, I think it comes back to the question of  hetu (cause).  Ayurveda is so clear about this.  You have shodhana (cleansing and eradicating)  and shamana (pacifying) and until you have a clear cause you’re likely unable to do shodhana.  There are so many reasons why people might be angry at what’s happening that we’re really talking about a shamana situation.  So something that is helpful for this is, do some asana, then do some pranayama, at least 5 minutes of each, preferably 10.  Then be seated and imagine you have a flower in your left hand. As you inhale pick a petal from the flower.  And as you exhale offer the petal and say whatever you have to say and it might be, “You !#@&1 politician!”  And offer the flower petal.   Then inhale, you pick another flower petal, exhale, you might say the same thing, or you might say something different, offer the flower petal.  So you do this.  You inhale, you pick a flower petal, as you exhale you offer the petal and you say whatever it is that you have to say.  So if you’re angry it likely will start off with expressions of anger and slowly it will move to expressing how you feel:  “ I feel very …, this is very…. You know, I’m having a hard time with it because I …”  Some clarification of things will happen.

The main piece here is that we want blame external circumstances but it’s really not about the external circumstances.  It’s really about what’s happening for us internally.  Not everybody is up in arms about the politics and the stuff that’s happening.  A section of the population is really actually ecstatically happy about it.  And even those who are upset, there’s different levels of upset.  Some are like,, “Well let’s see, first we had Nixon, then we had Bush, then we had the other Bush, now we have Trump.  It’s cyclical, it’ll go away.  We’ll just try to hold space and do damage control.”  But at the other end of the spectrum is, “Henny Penny, Oh my god!  This is it, I’m a citizen, but I’m probably gonna get deported!” You know the battle is internal, it is only peripherally involving external factors.


Practice acceptance and tolerance. Negative thoughts harm the person thinking them. You are the most powerful when you keep your peaceful center. Take positive actions for the good of all, rather than fighting against negativity directly. Marvel at the beauty of so many people coming together peacefully in solidarity for the sake of righteousness.


Pause and take 3 conscious breaths. The optimal word here is conscious.

For good instructions of these experiences I’d recommend reading :

Pema Chodron – “Practicing Peace in Time of War “ And “Living Beautifully with Uncertainty and Change”

From “Living Beautifully with Uncertainty and Change”:

“ In My Stroke of Insight , the brain scientist Jill Bolte Taylors’ book about her recovery form a massive stroke , she explains the physiological mechanism behind emotion: an emotion like anger that’s an automatic response lasts just ninety seconds form the moment it’s triggered until it runs its course. One and a half minutes , that’s all. When it lasts any longer, which it usually does, its because we’ve chosen to rekindle it.

The fact of the shifting, changing nature of our emotions is something we could take advantage of. But do we? No. Instead, when an emotion comes up, we fuel it with our thoughts, and what should last one and a half minutes may be drawn out for ten or twenty years. We just keep recycling the story line. We keep strengthening our old habits”

Do you have any advice for people who are trying to be active politically nowadays in addition to their busy lives?  How to sustain this increased engagement without burning out?


Be mindful of your prana level. Prana is life force energy. Eat healthy food, keep up an exercise routine, spend time in nature, or at least look at a tree or the sky from time to time. Same as airplane safety instructions, you have to take care of yourself first. If you are in prana debt, you have no reserves to resist with. Be steady, patient and persevere. The karma yoga attitude is to do your best and give up the results. There is a higher wisdom in charge. Remember to smile and laugh. Enjoy the new talents that are being drawn out of you. (Beware of fanaticism; it is not good for your health or the cause.)


I suggest that people be careful to do exactly what they are able to do authentically.  Self study is a vital part of a yogic lifestyle.  Many of us have a tendency to feel the pressure to do more then what we are able to do healthfully.  The Bhagavad Gita states; “It is better to live your own destiny imperfectly than to live an imitation of somebody else’s life with perfection.”


The main thing is to know yourself , recognize your limits and set boundaries that support you.

Pay attention to your inner experience and get to know how much you can extend yourself. If you have a big project that you’re working on and need to over extend then make sure to take a gap after to replenish.

The way that the geese do it is that when they are flying in a pack the lead goose steps back and another steps forward to lead the pack while the other  replenishes.  So make sure you are working with a supportive group that includes  well-being in the process.

Establishing a regular mediation practice can be very helpful!   It provides a place to pause and have space for inner reflection , inner nourishment. It teaches us how to work with our minds when we are engaged in conflict. It teaches us how to be present with what we are doing so that we don’t become overly exhausted from being pulled in too many directions.  A regular practice could begin with 10 min a day and as you strengthen that muscle it can expand. Taking time to add in a few simple yoga postures that ground you in embodied experience  could also be very helpful. Shorter periods are always recommended in the beginning so as to not overly discourage us. Make it doable.


It’s the same thing we say to caretakers.  It you don’t take care of the caretaker, who will take care of the people who need the care, right?  If you don’t take care of the protester, then how is the protest going to happen?

So for me you know sustained anger, frustration, fear, anxiety, these things are expression of a system out of balance.  The important key is that we spend some time bringing ourselves back toward balance.  And as we come back towards balance the external circumstances will impact us less and not only will they impact us less but we’ll be more strongly connected to our own intuition so we’ll be better able to make better decisions about, “Do I need to go, is this  my fight, etc.”  So it’s important that people take daily time to maintain some semblance of balance.

Ayurveda is so powerful,  in this way, in terms of lifestyle and diet support.  I would say yoga is very powerful in terms of movements and breathing.  There’s a model in the US where people think a yoga class is an hour, hour and a half and they go once a week.  It’s a wonderful model, but traditionally, it’s more important that you do something every day.  And, you do the same thing regularly every day.  So this means that you do 20 minutes of asana at your house every day–you might not have time for that weekly class, that’s ok.  Every day you have to do something to maintain your balance, breathing, movement, and meditation, whatever it is.  You know, in the model of viniyoga, the key piece is that everybody has a mentor, a guide, a teacher.  I’ve been in this 25 years, and I’m not creating my own practices.  I’m doing the practices that my mentor, my teacher, is giving.  And I do the same thing for my students.  I mentor others and I design practices for them.  So my ultimate answer to this question is find a teacher, get a personal practice developed that you can do every day.

Contact information for the teachers:




  • Susan Arnesen
  • Shambala Meditation Center
  • 1231 Stevenson Street
  • San Francisco, CA 94103
  • (415)796 2507
  • Susan will offer meditation insturction on the 3rd Wednesday evening of each month beginning in April and is available to speak to students one on one.
  • If you are interested in an introductory class in meditation – Shambala Meditation Center will be offering one titled :  Contentment in Everyday Life, beginning on March 21st  2017.    Susan will be teaching short sessions on yoga to compliment meditation practice.   You can enroll in this class even if you miss the first night.



Dr. Lad’s Tur Dal Soup #2

This comes from Dr. Lad’s cookbook, Ayurvedic Cooking for Self-Healing.  He states that it is tridosha shamana (pacifying) and that because of the Ushna virya of toor dal (warming quality), those experiencing increased Pitta or Ushna (heat) guna should use less frequently.

Ayurvedic Self-Care–The Key to Wellness

“Sama dosha sama agnishcha sama dhatu mala kriya; prasanna atma indriya manah svastha iti abhideyate.”

(Sushruta Samhita)

 “Balanced dosha, balanced digestive fire, balanced bodily tissues, elimination and function; contented soul, senses, and mind. These are said to constitute health.”


 In Ayurveda and in Yoga, there is an emphasis on connecting with the self…indeed, the Sanskrit word used for health, in the most famous sutra defining health, is swastha.  “Swa” means self and “Stha” means residing in or centered in.  The “self” is that part of us that is connected to our higher purpose and that is a smaller part of the greater universal “self.”

Self-care, or dinacharya (daily routine) is a key component to achieving and maintaining connection with the self and staying centered there.  There is a strong emphasis on preventative care in Ayurveda as it is easier to stay healthy than to have to address diseased states.  Self-care is preventative care and it grounds us in the reality of our actual needs.

 When we are aware and listening to our “self” it is far less likely that we will choose activities or actions that are self-harming or that cause imbalance or disease.  Taking care of the body by ensuring that it is properly maintained–with daily hygiene, dosha management and a healthy, nutritious diet–makes it possible for us to actually achieve our goals and to face life with the surety that we can cope with what is asked of us.

Additionally,  mind and spirit need proper care with regular meditation or prayer or connection to that which is greater than our selves.  Fundamentally, getting control of one’s own mind is the chief aim of yoga.  This is so that we see and know clearly what is occurring and so that we can properly respond.  Ayurveda agrees that cultivating a Sattvic state, where the mind is unclouded and under control is necessary for health.

Fall is the perfect time to focus on self-care.  Here in coastal California, it is the time to plant perennials and shrubs that can take advantage of the winter rains to set the foundation that they will need to weather the long, dry period that will start in April/May and that might last until October or November.   We can do the same in Fall, taking advantage of the longer nights and shorter days to turn our attention inward and to cultivate habits, or daily routines, that support and nurture us so that we can blossom in spring time.

No Tomatoes—Seriously?

Concern for what and how we should eat is at an all-time high, and this is fueling interest in all kinds of nutritional philosophies.  Ayurveda—the time-honored medical science from India—has used food as a medicine for thousands of years and so many are curious about its unique understanding of food as an integral part of health.

Ayurvedic nutrition is based on a profound understanding of the effects, or karmas, that foods exert in the body.  Each type of food, known in India, has been studied and its qualities and effects observed and described.

Some qualities act in concert with one another and cause effects that are not desirable.   Two of these effects are called abhishandi and vidahi.

Abhishandi foods are those that increase sticky secretions and moisture in the body.  These foods combine the heavy, sour and oily qualities which then increase sticky secretions and moisture in the body.  An example of this is molasses.  Yogurt is said to be abhishandi.  Tomatoes and white potatoes are quite possibly abhishandi.

Vidahi foods cause burning and combine the sour, pungent, heavy and oily qualities which then cause burning—coffee and tomato sauce are examples of vidahi foods.  These foods are easier to identify because they are often triggers for burning in the chest, or sour, burning liquid that comes up into the esophagus or throat—commonly known as heartburn or acid reflux.

It is recommended that foods that are either abhishandi or vidahi be consumed only occasionally and if there is a disease or imbalanced condition in which they are directly implicated, not at all.

Unfortunately, tomatoes are in both categories.

Wow, what do we do with pasta then?  No more spaghetti sauce, are you kidding?

No problem, you can actually make a tasty “red” sauce without tomatoes!

Here’s how:

Tomatoless Red Pasta Sauce

  • 1 Roasted Butternut Squash
  • 1 Roasted Beet, peeled and cut in to small chunks
  • 1 medium onion or 1 leek, diced
  • 2 to 3 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 to 2 Tablespoons of mild-tasting oil—olive, grapeseed, etc.
  • 1 vegetarian bouillon cube and 2 cups of water or 2 cups of vegetarian broth
  • 1 to 2 teaspoons of crushed dried basil, as per taste, or 2 to 3 Tablespoons minced fresh basil
  • Other spices you like to put in tomato sauce
  • 1 lemon, cut in half
  • ½ to 1 teaspoon of Pink Himalayan Sea Salt, depending on taste


  1. Scrape the butternut squash flesh into a bowl and reserve.
  2. Put the oil in a heavy-bottomed pot and heat to a low-moderate level. When the oil shimmers, add the diced onion or leek and sauté until the onion starts to brown.
  3. Add the minced garlic and sauté for a few moments
  4. Add the basil and stir it into the onion-garlic mix
  5. Add the butternut squash flesh and stir it to mix all the ingredients well. Sauté 5 to 10 minutes, stirring enough so that nothing sticks to the bottom
  6. Add the bouillon cube and water or the broth. Stir to mix the ingredients and then simmer for around 20 minutes—until the mixture has cooked down to a thicker consistency.  Stir occasionally so that nothing sticks to the bottom of the pot.
  7. Remove the pot from the heat and place on a pot holder on your counter:


  • If you have an immersion blender, let the mix sit for about 10 minutes and then use the immersion blender to blend it to a smooth, thick consistency
  • If you have a regular blender, then remove the pot from the heat and place on a pot holder on your counter. Let the mix sit for 20 to 30 minutes to cool down.  Then blend the mixture in batches, blending each batch to a smooth, thick consistency.
  • After your sauce is blended into a nice consistency. Add one chunk of beet to the mix and blend.  If the color of the sauce turns to the reddish, tomato-sauce like color you like, then return the pot to the stove and heat to cook down the sauce a bit more.  If you would like a redder color, then add another chunk of beet and blend, assessing the color.  Stop adding beet chunks when you attain the color you like.
  • Note:  I’ve found that adding 1 quarter of a beet gives a nice orangey-red color, but you may want your color darker.  Adding the whole beet makes it beet-colored, which is fine, but this may not work for people, like kids, who like things to look like what they expect.


  1. Now, just heat your sauce on low and bring to a simmer. Obtain the juice from ½ of your lemon, and add a teaspoon of it to your sauce.  Add ½ teaspoon of salt and stir well.  Simmer another couple moments and then taste for tartness and saltiness.  Adjust the amount of lemon juice and salt to your taste.
  2. Serve over pasta, vegetables or other grain.

Got the Holiday Travel Blues? Ayurveda to the Rescue!

Many of us will be traveling this holiday–by the end of travel, we will likely feel exhausted and out of whack, but then need to jump right into the whirl of holiday festivities.  At some point during or after our visit, we might be bloated, constipated or even sick.

This is because travel specifically disrupts the flow of Vata in our systems.  Vata is responsible for the smooth flow of movement, regulation and elimination.  Travel is especially hard on Vata because it often requires that we sit in one position for a long time, carry heavy suitcases and bags, move quickly and then stop, and stand in long lines—all of which are specific causes for disruption of Vata, especially for its function of eliminating wastes.  Thus, many find their bowel function discombobulated during or after travel.

If we are flying, these causes can be especially pronounced and jetting through the air at high speed is a sure recipe for extreme Vata aggravation.

Then, when we get to our destination we engage in parties and gatherings where it’s easy to overeat and overdo, talk a lot and loudly, and eat a lot of foods that are dry—crackers and chips—and also those that are heavy and rich—desserts, cream sauces, etc.  We stay up late and get up early.  These things aggravate the flow of Vata even more.

So what to do?  Continue reading “Got the Holiday Travel Blues? Ayurveda to the Rescue!”